Stop and search powers have always been a tool for discrimination. From the ‘sus’ laws to ‘No-suspicion’ searches, the brunt has always fallen disproportionately on Black and brown people. This has been shown time, time and time again.
In the face of this evidence, this ineffective police tactic should be scaled back. This misuse of this power not only ruins the lives of the thousands of people wrongfully stopped and even abused during stops, but also contributes to the breakdown of trust between communities and police.
Instead, the government is proposing to supercharge these discriminatory powers.
Proposing new Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs), the Home Office intend to allow officers to stop and search ‘repeat offenders’ without even the need for suspicion when a court order is in place. Their scant plans throw up a number of issues.
Firstly, this will inevitably exacerbate tensions between police and ex-offenders who are trying to rehabilitate into the community after a conviction. After an arrest, whether wrongful or not, individuals consistently report anxiety and severe distrust towards police officers when they return to the community. This will only be intensified if they continue to be treated like a guilty party after serving their sentence, and could even affect their relations with the community itself.
Secondly, there is no clear information as to how they will identify these ‘repeat offenders’ to stop them. If they intend to pick them out on the street, the police has a lengthy track record of regularly misidentifying Black people (including when using Automatic Facial Recognition technology). This suggests that these SVROs will result in high numbers of innocent people being mistakenly stopped and subject to a search without the need for any ‘suspicious behaviour’. Once again, we can expect this to fall most severely on Black, brown and other racialised groups.
Alternatively, if they intend to track these ‘repeat offenders’ so that they can stop them at any time, this will result in a gross infringement of their human right to a private life. If these individuals, regardless of their previous record, are not under suspicion of any crime, then there is no defence to subjecting them to constant police monitoring.
The Home Office pay lip service to rehabilitation of young people and community policing at the foot of their press release, yet the very idea they are proposing flies in the face of this. Handing police officers a blank cheque to increase an already discriminatory process, will only increase discrimination.
Once again the government is showing that they have given no consideration of the experiences of Black people.